Lasso Spells has a bold mandate. The project’s driving force, singer/musician and songwriter Brent Dudash, promises Lasso Spells’ songs are a stylistic amalgamation of various retro strands into something fresh, distinctive, and forward looking. Any looking back, at this late date in pop music history, requires a transformative singer without any glaring reference points, writing geared in a likewise manner, and a talent for pouring old wine into new bottles. Anything else comes off cheap and artificial. Lasso Spells’ second album Bohemian Mechanics doesn’t advance or stretch the form of guitar driven rock, but reaffirms its enduring vitality, and Dudash’s singing, vocal presence, and songwriting definitely fit the bill for harboring a transformative quality. The ten songs included with this release are the best yet from Lasso Spells.
There aren’t enough superlatives available to describe the effect Dudash’s voice has on these songs. The opener, “Be What You Want”, is one of the best illustrations of his unique power over the material – his cawing, insolent dismissal of the song’s subject, his disdain further evidenced by an assortment of lyrical details, gains additional punch thanks to the vocal melody. The drums and guitars are on point and first time listeners are introduced to the signature sound of Lasso Spells’ music. There’s a swampy, southern tinge to much of the album’s six string work and it continues with the melancholy eloquence of “Yeah Right”. His lyrical inventiveness remains high as well – there are a number of couplets and standalone lines with a sharply observed poetic turn. The mid-tempo saunter of the song pairs up nicely with the opener’s more manic energy.
“High Tide” comes off as a sort of cross between The Velvet Underground and Tom Petty, but Lasso Spells is stronger on atmospherics and they never come off as overwrought. The contrast of light and shadow throughout this song has a steady touch, never heavy handed, and provides another perfect musical platform for Dudash’s voice and lyrics. “Poppy Seed” simmers during a brief introduction before segueing into phantasmagorical verses with underpinned by shadowy reverb, unsettled melodic flourishes, and a touch of the ethereal. One of the album’s strong qualities, the poetic, vividly emerges from this song. It ends with a bit of bowed guitar.
The woozy guitar melodies of “Island” accentuate the psychedelized elements of the song, but there are some swaths of pointed and affecting lead work punctuating those passages. The sound of this album is reminiscent of producer Daniel Lanois’s work on Bob Dylan’s Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind. The instruments on “Island” sound expertly miked and the post-production effects never obscurity the song’s inherent quality. “Slangin” has a much more chaotic quality than many of the other meditative numbers included on Bohemian
Mechanics and some of the interesting sounds achieved during the song contribute much to its abrasive and desperate tenor. It breaks down rather remarkably near the song’s end and briefly coalesces into one of the album’s most memorable passages before returning to the main riff for the track’s conclusion. Bohemian Mechanics doesn’t redefine the genre, but definitely stands heads and tails above many contemporaries and peers. Brent Dudash’s songwriting and singing talents are unforgettable and Lasso Spells’ material is delivered with sharp instinct and undeniable dramatics.